introducing readers to writers since 1995

April 26, 2005

Somehow I Became an Expert
On "Literature and the Web"

by Ron Hogan

Despite downing way too many vodka martinis the night before, I managed to wake up on Wendi Kaufman's couch in reasonably good shape, so after a brief stop for hot drinks and bagels, her husband drove the two of us out to the Writer's Center of Bethesda, Maryland. I was one of the guest speakers for a panel on "literature and the web," while Wendi was moderating all of us. Of course, we knew Reb Livingston, the co-editor of the poetry journal No Tell Motel, because we'd been out drinking with her the night before (although she'd very wisely made her way home after just one round of martinis). But I was placed at the opposite end of the dais from them, situated between Jeannie Smith and Andrew Lundwall of Poetic Inhalation and Michael Neff of Web del Sol.

The first part of the session went easily enough; each of us gave a little spiel about how we'd gotten started and what our aims were in publishing online. I blushed a bit at the enthusiasm with which Wendi touted my audience of 100,000 monthly readers--at least, that's what it'll be if everything goes right this week--because, as I told one woman who asked if we felt like we were some sort of underground subculture, "I'm just amazed to get up in the morning and have people care what I have to say about literature." (And for the record, I don't look at myself as being in a subculture, and I'm not out to challenge the supremacy of print; I'm glad to have found a space where my writing is well received, and I'm hoping to carve out a similar space in other venues in the months and years to come.) That was one of the more exciting questions from the second half of the discussion; another interesting digression concerned the death and resurrection of Foetry (note to future program directors: do not get Michael Neff started on the subject of poetry grants and/or contests). A lot of the queries had to do with whether we could make any money publishing online and why we bothered if we couldn't. The main advantage, to my mind, was summed up in an exchange between one audience member and Reb:

Q: What will I get out of publishing my poems in an online journal like yours that I won't get from a print magazine?

A: Readers.

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